Hiking, or “woods walking” has always been my solace. It’s where my soul regenerates and I can get in touch with something so primal and authentic it speaks to my very inner core. Sure, it’s good exercise and removes the cobwebs from my head, but it’s so much more than that. It’s not about the hike. It’s not about the walk. It’s about being at one with the earth and hearing nothing except my own heartbeat (and the birds). It’s about being surrounded by trees and dirt and rocks that will far outlive me. We come and go. The earth beneath our feet is eternal. The rocks, while they may eventually erode or crumble, will be here for many generations. I look at the stone walls that line the old back roads and think of those that came before. The people that cut down forests and built their houses in new fields; those same fields that are now overgrown with pine and maple trees once again. Nothing remains except remnants of cellar holes, boundary lines and old animal pens.
They are logging a lot of the hill where I walk. At first it broke my heart as the landscape changed and became unrecognizable. Swaths of newly cut land created a foreign world where I once felt at home. But now, slowly, it’s becoming familiar again. Just different. Trees that had stood for perhaps a hundred years lay abandoned, cut and left to rot into earth. The cycle is continuing. Life is continuing. I thought about how the farmer’s children, returning to their homestead decades later, must have been saddened by the trees overtaking their beautiful gardens, pastures and fields. How those same trees are now being felled to give way to pasture and fields once again.
These moments give me insight into life like nothing else could. I’m reminded continually of the cycle that surrounds us. Life and death. Growth and decay. It’s everywhere all the time. We cannot mourn what is missing for something new is happening. Where there were trees, fields will take over. Where one thing was, another takes its place. Different. Foreign at first, but gradually becoming familiar. For me, where pain once lived, a new peace is taking hold. Where once I felt alone, now I feel quiet. It’s very, very different.
I’m coming into a new period of my life. I suppose it’s called “empty nest” but it’s much more than that. I’m coming into a time where I can focus solely on me. On unveiling the person I’ve become over the years. It’s happened slowly. Pieces of who I used to be have faded away, much like the erosion eating at the rocks that were stacked purposefully into stonewalls a century ago. I’ve been stacking experiences and emotions into a new formation. Solid and strong enough to last throughout my life. I’ve changed. I’ve morphed into a different person without really noticing. But now is the time to take notice. I’ve the time, the quiet and the solitude to be able to find out who lies beneath this skin I wear. Who lives deep within and what I need to bring to the surface. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun, but it’s a journey like no other. Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. It’s time to light a torch and enter the cave. They don’t call me Jewels for nothing*… for I am my own treasure.
*Although, when I was young my cousins DID call me “Jewels Worth Nothing”. But they did so in such a way that I knew they loved me more than any jewel they could ever hold.